On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane (1982)
It’s been a good few days in the UK, dear reader, but a long flight awaits us as we head Down Under to Australia. Over in Brisbane, Queensland, we find a group by the name of The Go-Betweens, formed in 1977 and whose key members were Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. In the early 1980s the group relocated to the UK and when we join them in 1982 they are working on their second album – Before Hollywood. 1001 Songs have gone with one of the group’s best known tracks – Cattle and Cane.
Written largely by McLennan, Cattle and Cane was a song that was partly autobiographical and intended as a tribute to McLennan’s mother. Stuck in England and homesick, McLennan became nostalgic for the distant past and the song evokes the memories of a young man growing up. The opening verse is of simple childhood running through the cane fields. The second verse describes the boy now in boarding school and losing his father’s watch in the shower. By the third verse he is in university, away from his rural upbringing and seeing a much bigger world than he ever imagined before. The final verse written and sung by Robert Forster is from his perspective and he echoes similar feelings to Grant McLennan, thoughts of home but of being alone when he was there, but now life is very different. Theirs is a past they can never truly reclaim.
The Go-Betweens are another group I was unfamiliar with prior to this challenge but I did enjoy Cattle and Cane and its poignant taste of nostalgia. The words are spoken rather than sung which is unusual but it feels completely apt with the music. The group themselves would not hit the dizzy heights of mainstream success but this song has endured as a genuine classic track. The group disbanded in 1989 but reformed in 2000. They broke up for the second and final time in 2006 when Grant McLennan died, aged 48, after suffering a heart attack. A part of you hopes his spirit made it back to those fields of cane he loved as a boy.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)